A German team of scientists claims graphene may be able to replace the rare metal indium in several industries like solar power cells and LCD displays:
Solar cells have always relied on the metal indium, due to its transparency, which is essential to light emission or absorption in electronics. Engineers also regard indium valuable in LCDs and other transparent electrical devices. However, indium is a relatively rare metal on Earth and existing supplies are rapidly dwindling. Researchers have frantically searched for transparent conducting materials to little avail.
A new team claims it may have found the solution in one of the Earth's most abundant elements. Researchers at the Planck Institute have devised a new approach, utilizing graphene -- single 2D layers of carbon atoms, extracted from graphite -- 10 layers of which are applied to form an electrode. Each layer that comprises the electrode is a mere 5 nm thick.
The material has conductivity comparable or superior to indium and falls just slightly short of indium in transparent character. The current device is 80% transparent to visible light and 100% transparent to infrared light.
The team constructed a prototype using a process that will be drastically changed and refined. The prototype used graphite oxide flakes which were applied to form layers of surface coating between 10 nm to 100 nm thick. The coating was then heated to remove the oxygen, leaving behind a simple graphene-like material.